f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 3 of Meaning – Answers

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Day 3 of Meaning – Answers

Yesterday we discussed how changing the questions our novels approach can lead to novels that tackle themes we’ve not seen quite so many times. The problem is that, in writing about faith, authors want to tackle the big themes.

What happens to faith in the midst of suffering? (The Passion of Reverend Nash)

How does faith change us? (Asher Lev, Godric)

What is faith? (Mariette in Ecstasy, Lying Awake)

I agree with the person who commented yesterday on the importance of precise and unique characters in helping the "meaning" of the book seem unique as well. Looking at the books above, one unifying characteristic is their very strong characters. We get to know these characters at a depth that goes beyond merely the platitudes we might hear on Sunday. And the final take-away answer we get may feel the same, but the experience of the character learning that lesson feels fuller and richer.

This, I guess, is the point. These novels really aren’t supposed to instruct. Their supposed to reflect or illustrate. We’re supposed to walk alongside characters and see them making choices and thinking things through. And it’s the journey that matters as much as anything.

A character who reaches a conclusion that’s a simple platitude becomes nothing more than a sounding board for an authors’ viewpoints. This is when books—all books—get slammed for being preachy. I’m not talking solely about CBA novels here. There are many, many novels that do this. (The Lovely Bones, in my opinion, is one of them.)

What we need to discover is whether there are tips for making a character’s "journey" more authentic. Are there ways of ensuring that whatever is learned by a character is earned through the novel, and not synthetic? We’ll spend tomorrow thinking this through.

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Go to Day 4 of Meaning